Deeply concerned about the impact of tobacco use

Letter to the editorAs the Chair of the African American Leadership Forum Health and Wellness Group, I am deeply concerned about the impact of tobacco use on our community. Each year about 45,000 African Americans die from smoking related illness. These illnesses are the number-one cause of death in our community and surpass all other causes of death including AIDS, homicide, diabetes, and accidents.

The African American Leadership Forum is committed to preventing African American youth from beginning to use tobacco. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry is persistent in finding new ways to appeal to kids. The latest tactic is to add candy-like flavors to their deadly products. In corner stores and convenience stores where kids often shop, you’ll find peach, raspberry cream, and watermelon flavored cigars and blunt wraps or bubble gum hookah tobacco. These products are designed to appeal to young people.

Thankfully, Saint Paul’s leaders see through this thinly veiled attempt by the tobacco industry to target kids. The City Council has introduced an ordinance that prohibits these products from being sold in stores where kids are allowed to enter. They will only be sold in adults-only tobacco shops.

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, restricting youth access to tobacco is effective for reducing youth tobacco use. This ordinance will assure that Saint Paul youth will not be bombarded by flavored tobacco products every time they walk into their neighborhood corner stores and help reduce the terrible impact tobacco has on our communities.

Respectfully submitted,

Gene Nichols, AALF-HWG Chair